My Craigslist Adventure

As a self-published author, my life consists of reading, writing, and begging people for reviews on Amazon. Before I started publishing on Amazon, I never realized how vital it was to have multiple reviews next to a title. The big publishers have no problem with this “star pursuit” because they have designated reviewers. The small guys have to scrape and sweat for whatever they can get. Amazon makes this almost impossible because even if someone buys your book, they cannot review it unless they have made several purchases in the past. Besides Amazon’s consumerist barriers, there are the barriers to people’s motivation. I have asked dozens of people to write me a review after reading my book – maybe 1% actually follow through.

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This dismal response rate is due to several factors: people are busy, people don’t care about my self-published book, people don’t like to write, and people don’t understand the importance of the almighty star. I currently have three books on Amazon. One has 16 reviews, and the other two have 1-2 reviews. Guess which book I sell multiple copies of each month? The one with those glorious stars! The other two books are just as good – if not better – but receive no lip service! If you need any more proof of this phenomenon, just be conscious of your own Amazon buying behavior; you will look at the number of reviews and the overall rating – if a product has no reviews it is not even considered. In an attempt to ameliorate my star situation, I went to Craigslist. 

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Craigslist and I have been friends for some time; in the past, I found countless deals, affordable apartments, and cool roommates from the eclectic site. I posted in the Community section that I was a “Local Author looking for people to read my book and write an honest review.” I got a few responses right away from people who requested my book and a meetup. My first email conversation went something like this…

“Hi I would like to read your book, I love reading.”

“Great I will send you the PDF.”

“Would you like to meet up and discuss it? I’m a 47-year-old blonde who likes long walks…” 

At that point, I thought I either found a true fan of my writing or someone who wanted me to be her divorce rebound; after showing my wife the email, I figured it was the latter. My second contact was with another local author who wanted to meet up to exchange books. We went back and forth on the time to meet and settled on Sunday at 3:00 pm. This was fine until my Fantasy Football draft got rescheduled to 3:00 pm. I frantically emailed him back several times that we would have to reschedule. There was no response until 4:00 pm…

“I waited here an hour for you!”

I felt like crap about this mix-up but who waits for someone pass the 30-minute mark? What person thinks…

“It’s 40 minutes past our meeting time…I’ll give them another 20”

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My star search had two strikes. The last message I got was from a foreign guy with poor English. He wanted to meet to discuss the book and practice English. I sent him the PDF and asked for the review before meeting up with him in a week. The day came and I drove to a very rural Mcdonald’s. One would think that a middle-of-nowhere Mcdonald’s would have mostly white people. This Mcdonald’s was like a United Nations and I spent the first 15 minutes asking people if they were the person I was looking for. Finally, I found my target in the corner. He was from Saudi Arabia and very friendly. The only problem was that he didn’t read my book or write me a review. For the next two hours, we talked about Saudi Arabian culture. During that time I was confronted by a Michigander who asked us if we were Christians – he subsequently preached to us for 15 minutes. I was also stared at by a family when our conversation turned to ISIS and me taking a trip to Mecca. This scenario was made worse by my ungainly beard and my obscure knowledge of Middle-Eastern history.  In the end, I never got my stars but I might be on the FBI watch list. Please if you are reading this, check out my books below and write me a quick review – it will save me some Craigslist adventures in the future.

Tackle the Library – Plato

We’re all the Chihuahuas 

Cold Comfort Farm

“Well,’ said Mrs Smiling, ‘it sounds an appalling place, but in a different way from all the others. I mean, it does sound interesting and appalling, while the others just sound appalling.”

-Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm

I once went through this weird phase where I wanted to be a gentleman farmer. I spent countless hours researching heirloom crops to grow and obscure breeds of animals to raise. I romanticized the agrarian lifestyle; always picturing myself leaning on a fence looking out at a pasture of sheep or goats. I thought there was no better life of freedom or satisfaction – at the end of the day I could kiss Christina, eat apple pie, and read the Bible to my 10 children. In an attempt to test the waters of farming, I convinced my parents to put a garden in the backyard. To make the long story short, I dreaded watering and weeding the stupid thing and when something did finally grow, a wild beast ate it before I could gain any tangible satisfaction.

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After that failed attempt at farming, I put my rural dreams to the side and took up a much more suitable occupation – reading books and writing obscure blog posts. Every now and again the dream resurfaces of eating pie while staring at my goats but Christina usually squashes them with an impersonation of myself during the aforementioned gardening days…”(in an old man voice) Oh, my backkkkk, I fricking hate bending over, I need a chair to sit down to get these things out.” This precarious relationship with agriculture framed my mindset while reading the 1932 classic Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons – a parody of the rural novels from 19th century England. Suffice it to say it motivated new Google searches for “how to garden in a wheelchair.”

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The title of Cold Comfort Farm is named after the main farm in the book and paints the picture of natural beauty while simultaneously highlighting the backwardness of rural England. The main character, Flora, comes to the farm to essentially mooch off her relatives with free room and board. Her relatives, the Strakadders, are best described as Sussex hillbillies who are superstitious, uneducated, and set in their ways – even though their ways make zero sense. Flora spends the book, in a quite hilarious manner, fixing the Strakadders problems, and facilitating them to lead better lives. At first, it is slow going, but with finesse and humor, Flora helps each member to truly blossom to their full potential.

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This novel is meant to show that no person is irredeemable and that the countryside not only has beautiful landscape but also beautiful people. England at the time was still quite pretentious when it came to class differences and Cold Comfort Farm is a direct attack on the negative attributes of the “stiff upper lip.”  It is not that Flora tries to change the Strakadders into pompous-city folk but rather helps them see their skills in a new light – leading them in the first steps towards their lifelong dreams. Many times we judge others who live differently and we try to change them to be reflections of ourselves; like a farmer trying to coerce me to weed when I am just more suited for Wikipedia.  In a world rife with division – Republican/Democrat, Rural/City, North/South, Black/White – we need to be reminded of this more than ever.